Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Kiev

Greetings all,
We are running into some snags here which required us to come to Kiev to try to straighten out so we can get out of here. I can't go into all the details now. One issue we have encountered is Julia having a younger brother who was illegally separated from her 7 years ago and is causing issue with court decree. So it was our hope to be out of Kiev today and back to Gorlovka today but now need to stay in Kiev again tonight. Has been nice to see Lyuda again. One praise report is that Sergeia's baby is ok and goes home this weekend. It has been nice here but we miss our kids and everyone back home! We are ready to come home!

Also received alert from us embassy to avoid Kiev saturday due to expected violent protest. So we will watch this situation accordingly and might delay our return till after the weekend if needed. Have had zero security concerns here thus far and do not intend pushing my luck.

We love you all and miss you!
Agape,
John and Lucia

So we ask for your prayers that we can wrap things up this week.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ukrainian Disneyland

Greetings All,
This is for Saturday. First off, I want to dedicate this post to my wife for it was a day she probably would have had more fun staying at our flat or shopping. My hat is off to her for hanging in there all day.

Today was like taking the girls to Disneyland. Julia decided to visit with one of her caregivers/teachers this weekend to say goodbye since we will hopefully be home next weekend (crossing our fingers!). So Rymma got to bring Krystina and Marina along today.

We took 2 taxis this trip to Donetsk. Rymma and Krystina with me and Chia had Marina and Olga with her. First stop was ice skating. These girls LOVE to ice skate! Krystina has been to Donetsk before but this was Marina's first trip and it was a first time to ice skate at an indoor rink for both of them..

Ice skating was fun for the girls, Lucia took some pics and video & then went to cafe for a cappuccino. The entire time I had Olga and Marina with me. Olga did so much better this time and actually did a couple laps all alone! Rymma and Krystina did very well and skated by themselves the entire time. Before you knew it, our 45 minutes were up and it was time to leave.

Next, we stopped at a mall that had bowling. Marina and Krystina both dropped their jaws when we walked into the mall. The first thing Rymma did was turn around like a hostess and said, "Welcome to America!" in very good English. It was so funny. We went up two escalators to the 4th floor. As I watched Marina, I realized by her hestitation to get on the escalators that it was her first time. All I heard from the girls as they were eyeing all the stores & things was "Kloss!" "Kloss!" and more "Kloss"

We found the bowling alley (on the 4th floor!) but-like at home-no open bowling till after 10pm. So we passed on bowling. Next to bowling was a food court with Sbarro Pizza. Yes! We ate pizza there and decided to go next door to a video arcade.

Arcade was a blast for the girls. Lucia would have enjoyed shopping but that would have opened game on a shopping safari so she just watched. I played one game of air hockey with Krystina and one cool fighter game that you strap in and the seat pivots in direction of flight and shakes on impact. It was "kloss!" :o) Girls raced, danced, basketball, etc, and had a really good time. Only spent 200 gryvna ($40) in the arcade for 1-1/2 hours so that wasn't bad.

One of the neatest things about there was when I watched the kids pool their tickets together and buy little trinkets for their friends back at the orphanage. It was odd not to have Julia with us. Lucia and I missed her a lot.

As our time winds down here, it's getting harder and harder to say goodbye to the girls and all their friends. It will be very hard to say goodbye to Krystina, Marina and Nastya! I truly cherish every experience with them and especially knowing that today was our last ice skating and Donetsk trip with them. So it is sad for me. But on the other hand, I miss my girls and son at home!

So like I said, today was Disneyland for the girls. I am sure it will be a memory that they will always cherish and recall with a smile. I am so used to being called "John Crazy" or "John Crazy Ballerina" by all the girls here. I am truly going to miss them very much when we leave.

It's truly strange that the fact was when I left here after a missions trip in 2006, I didn't shed a tear-unlike my trips to Ecuador and Peru when I cried leaving those places. However, I know I am going to miss these children we are leaving behind. I already know I will be coming back!

Again, my love and thanks to my wife for hanging in there today. Today would have been easier for her to send Papa off with the kids for the day and Mama to relax at home. I love you, Lucia!

Agape,
John

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Better Than Yesterday

Can you believe that it has been 4 WEEKS since we left home?? We are hoping to be home next weekend. We'll let you know when we know!!

***************
Today was MUCH better than yesterday. :o)

We started our afternoon by walking to a Soviet tank monument near our flat, to an outside vendor to purchase more movies in Russian-it will be fun to see how they dubbed Men in Black!-and to our market for a few things for "home" and snacks for the girls. We came back to the flat & ate lunch before heading to the orphanage to visit with the girls.

When we got there, Helen told us that Julia was spending the weekend visiting with a caretaker who used to take her for weekends & had been ill for 5 mos. (Ironically, Julia picked out pics yesterday to give her from the stack she helped to sort.) We got to see Julia for about 5 minutes before she left. We got hugs and kisses & we told her to have fun. "Yes. Bye! Bye!" as she went out the door. (I am glad that Julia is getting this time with her friend before she leaves as Julia has told me that she is very close to this caretaker.)

Rymma & Krystina came down dressed for a program that was put on for the boys today. They looked beautiful in their eye makeup! They ate some of the snacks we brought them & we headed upstairs for the program.

The program lasted about 1-1/2 hrs. It consisted of a competition b/w 2 teams (from what I gathered). For each event, different groups of kids that were pulled from the audience. They did rope-pulling, arm wrestling, who could make up a bed the best and fastest, peel 4 potatoes the best and fastest, who could down a bowl of something (soup, I assume-I couldn't tell) and a drink the fastest ... and the best competition was who could carry 3 other boys to the back of the room the fastest! Lucky for me, I was paying attention & got out of their way before the chaos-I had been videotaping from their direct path! "I'm sharp! I'm on it!" LOL

Rymma, Krystina, Nastya & Vica, another friend, did a dance to a Brittney Spears song-I think it was "Piece of Me" (?) They did VERY well.

When the program was done, the chairs were stacked & another dance party started-complete with LOUD music & boys running. When I asked Krystina why she wasn't dancing she said that she was too hungry to dance. We asked her if she wanted to eat at the cafe and she said yes. Rymma said she wasn't hungry & wanted to continue to dance. We ended up taking Marina, Nastya & Krystina to the cafe. We had a lot of fun and got the girls back after 7:00pm. Oops! ;o) The girls didn't seem too worried about it so I guess we're ok! :o)

Tomorrow we're taking Rymma, Krystina & Marina ice skating in Donetsk-if the rink hasn't melted there too!! :o) If so, we plan to go bowling (sorry, Sam!) & to the Toys-R-Us/Chuck E. Cheese. Pray that our taxi ride goes better than last time we went to Donetsk!!! ;o)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feelwin' Fwustwated!!

First of all, Krystina's great grandmother is feeling better today! :o)
**********
Today was a very frustrating day for me-and I can honestly say it has been the first day that I have felt frustrated. I don't know if it's because of my sinuses, having gotten to bed late last night (2:30am-I couldn't sleep this time!), the devil seeping his way in, being away from home for 4 weeks as of tomorrow :o(, I am just cranky or-most likely-ALL of the above!!

There were a few times today when someone had a "look" on her face, an attitude was displayed or words were said that hurt another's feelings. I know we are all happy to be together but the scenery is pretty much the same day-after-day, the days are starting to blur together & boredom is starting to show it's ugly head.

We got to the orphanage this afternoon & the girls quickly asked to go to the pizza shop with friends. We stopped at a PhotoExpress to pick up prints we ordered this morning & to get the girls' passport pics. We bought Marina a frame for herself and one for Oksana for a beautiful 8x10 pic we had printed for each of them. She was VERY appreciative as was Nastya for whom we bought an additional frame.

We then headed to eat pizza & play air hockey-AGAIN. (Honestly-you are NOT reading a repeat post!) The girls had fun with Nastya, Marina & Krystina today & they all ate very well. :o) While they all had ice cream for dessert (Olga included :o), I had a nice, warm cappuccino. Mmmmm!

While waiting for our food, the girls looked through the photos, COMPLETELY taking them out of order as they did so. Ugh! And, as they looked thru them, they just didn't comprehend that you don't put your fingers all over them! Double Ugh!! (Thankfully it was before the pizza or chips!)

As we were putting on our coats to leave, Olga told us the girls wanted to go skating-AGAIN. I had her tell the girls that I didn't think it was a good idea since they already had sinuses & taking medicine for it; that we could watch a movie. They wanted NOTHING to do with a movie and were determined to go skating. I told them I wasn't going & would stay back at the orphanage & watch a movie on the laptop-Olga didn't want to go either & agreed to stay back with me at the orphanage while they went.

John took a taxi back with Rymma, Krystina & Nastya while Olga and I took one with Julia & Marina. We stopped at the courthouse on the way for Olga to do something for A & while waiting for Olga, Julia said she didn't want to skate either & would watch a movie with Olga & me.

When we arrived back at the orphanage, John & the girls came in behind us. John said some of the boys had told the girls that the rink was melting but they had to walk down to see for themselves ... and they were NOT happy!!!

The girls were upset that they couldn't go skating, said they didn't want to watch a movie or stay in the playroom. They decided to go to their rooms instead, said bye, & Julia & Marina stayed with us in the playroom.

Julia, Marina & Julia's roommate helped us sort the pics & Krystina joined back up with us about 10 minutes later. The photo sorting was a frustration in & of itself-too much to detail here-but we FINALLY got thru it and all was well in the world again.

The girls got silly-Marina more than usual :o) - and soon it was time to go pick up the passport pics before closing. We said short & sweet goodnights and headed "home."

Tomorrow will be a new day!

2-20

Our Little Timmy with a BIG Heart!

His voice and words keep playing in my mind. It broke my heart when I talked to Timmy on Monday and he asked, "When are you coming home? I miss you a lot." :o( I told him in the next two weeks. "Ok."

Pastor Gary from church sent us an email on Monday telling us that he observed Timmy's Sunday School class last weekend. He said that Tomas' and Shirley-friends of ours who are with Compassion International in Ecuador-were visiting his class, there was a dialog going on and that Timmy was doing most of the talking! Who knew!!?? LOL He went on to say that TIMMY was telling THEM how they could go to the Welcome Center to sponsor a child!! How cool is THAT!!??

Timmy has such a HUGE heart and love for all people!! God is using our little boy to change the world NOW and I can't wait to see how God uses him for bigger things in the future!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Psalm 40:5

Today was a very emotional day for all of us. John has recapped a lot of the details in his post. Here are my (lengthy-Sorry, Bob! :o) additional comments & thoughts:

As John mentioned, per our request, Helen arranged for Marina to visit her younger sister, Oksana, in a nearby boarding school today. Oksana will be 8 in May & has some developmental delays due to neglect when she was younger. The boarding school has programming for children with mild-to-moderate developmental & mental disabilities. When we arrived, we were surprised by the size of the facility but the kids live & go to school there.

We entered one of the 3 buildings & were lead to a main hallway-again, much like a deck hall from "Titanic." There were a lot of children of all ages & sizes walking & running by us - "Who are they?" "Why are they here?" ""Are they here for me?" is what I imagine they were asking themselves & each other.

I did not see the entire scene John describes of Oksana with the woman. :o( I looked over when I heard "Oksana!" and saw her running to Marina. It was like in slow-motion when she ran into Marina's outstretched arms, they embraced & the tears flowed - from all of us. I cannot explain what I felt at that moment: a combination of joy for Marina & Oksana, sadness that they were separated in the first place, thanksgiving that we were an instrument in making this happen for them, and blessed to witness their reunion.

During our visit, the love between Marina & Oksana was obvious from the way Marina tenderly touched Oksana & tended to her to the way Oksana looked into Marina's eyes when she spoke to Marina. I too did not need an interpreter to know she asked Marina if she was going to America. :o( Olga told us that Oksana told Marina that she wants to go to the orphanage with her [to be together]. I don't know Marina's response; perhaps I don't want to know. :o( Unfortunately in this system, this will never happen. Oksana will never be able to "advance" to a "normal" orphanage. Though she is receiving special programming, it is not enough to bring her to the level deemed sufficient to graduate her out of the boarding school. It is truly sad that Marina & Oksana will never be together again until they are aged out-and that is not for certain-or they are brought together in a forever family.
:o(

We stayed maybe 1-1/2 hrs and it was time to go. We took some pics of Marina & Oksana and watched as they said goodbye-not knowing how soon they will be seeing each other again.

In the van, Marina (thru Olga) told us, "Thank you for taking your time to take me to see my sister." I told her, "It is our gift to you and Oksana." She smiled her big, beautiful smile!

We took the girls out for pizza & air hockey. The girls got to the point where they didn't want to go up against John any more because he always won! LOL The girls wanted to go shopping for what I thought was for a couple of things so I agreed. First, it was laundry soap and tissues for the orphanage. Then it was a purse for Krystina. Marina got a hair clip. Then the "grab what you can" phase ensued with Rymma. By the time it was all said and done, there was a whole basket full of stuff! OY!

Krystina had been complaining about a headache since yesterday & she & Rymma have congestion. I took Julia & Marina with me back to the orphanage while John & Olga took Krystina & Rymma to the "chemist" [pharmacy] for some OTC meds & then they met up with us.

When they returned, Krystina called her grandmother & was told that her great-grandmother has become very ill & is not expected to make it thru the night. Krystina is very close to her & is just devastated by the news. I wish I could have stayed the night with her or brought her to stay with us in case she got word of her passing. John told me later that he saw Jesus yet again today when je saw the compassion for Krystina in Rymma's eyes when she learned the news. I am sure that Rymma, Julia & Marina will stay close to her. I told her to call or text us if she heard anything. Please keep Krystina and her family in prayer!

So many emotions/feelings came over me today. The most prevalent were:
* Joy-the reunion of Marina & Oksana; watching John being "John" as we all know & being silly with the boys & bringing smiles to their faces
* Sadness-for all the children at the boarding school & their possibly separated siblings. Seeing all the younger boys today made me realize just how mich I miss my little boy waiting for us to come home.
* Thanksgiving-for another day with the girls; for Helen agreeing to & arranging today; the love in Marina's eyes when she told us "thank you," & that Krystina was able to visit her great-granmother this past Saturday.
* Love-for my God for today and every day, for my husband & all the girls, for my Timmy and our other kids at home, for our family and friends, for the children we saw today ... For my Julia, who told me "I love you" back in English when I hugged her goodnight. :o)
* Awe-the knowledge that God knew of the events of today before time began and placed each of us at these precise moments to experience His presence
In awe of Him,
Lucia

Psalm 40:5
Many, O Lord, My God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount them to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

God's Hand...

Sorry about a late post yesterday. Lucia's 3rd cousin passed away & it took time trying to do a tribute online for him. This is my 2nd try blogging tonight. I did it once & somehow lost it so here goes again!

Backing up to yesterday for a second-we ice skated & were prepared this time w/warm clothes. I skated this time & was given an almost-new pair of skates to which the girls responded "Kloss". I soon felt guilty after seeing how bad the skates fit the girls & thought how Julia was going to break an ankle or both. We had fun & went to cafe for dinner.

We learned the girls didn't have school today due to a flu outbreak. We emailed A if we could surprise the girls' friend, Marina, and take her to see her sister today. It worked out & we left early today for the orphanage. Julia came down first & asked Olga all sorts of questions. Where were we going? Who is going?. You should have seen the look on Marina's face when she learned she was seeing her sister!

Marina is 14 and Oksana is 7. Oksana was separated from her sister this past Sept & they haven't seen or heard from each other since then. Today while waiting to leave, Julia was telling Olga about my skates & that I got the best because I was an American. She was absolutely right! I was given the best & my daughters had been given the worst! And today happened because an American asked to take a young girl to see her little sister and I used that advantage to be a blessing to Marina!

We all loaded up in orphanage van. Helen, Olga, Rymma, Julia, Krystina, Marina, Lucia & I. We completely forgot about bringing something for Oksana so we stopped by a market on way & let Marina buy her things. She bought her bananas, chips, cookies, pop, cereal & chocolate.

On the trip there, 2 things happen. We were out toward the country & a new direction we hadn't seen in the past 2 weeks. I looked up into the clouds & saw a cloud formation of an outstretched hand. It was AWESOME! I could see the thumb, fingers & the palm perfectly clear. It was as if God's hand was outstretched over us. I was completely overcome emotionally at the sight & truly took it as the simple gift it was-God's blessings for the day. OUR GOD IS AWESOME! The 2nd experience of the trip was coming up on some high-rise apartments that we've seen from distance the past 2 weeks. Getting closer to them, you could see most were vacant and not-so-nice. It reminded me that God looks at our hearts & not the outside. Appearance isn't everything; it's what's on inside that counts!

Our little group arrived to the orphanage: 3 large buildings - 1 school, 1 housing and not sure about the last one. But were soon swarmed with children coming out of the woodwork! All seemed eager to know why we were there & we were pelted with 'privyet' or good afternoon in Russian. We were lead to a long hallway on the 2nd floor.

After a couple minutes of waiting & TONS of little kids walking by, we saw a lady walking a tiny girl down the hall approaching our group. I could see confusion in her eyes as to why was she being brought to see our group. Marina finally saw her & yelled "Oksana!" & she immediately heard her.& dropped the hands of the lady into a dead-beat run to her older sister's outstreched arms. I cried watching this reunion as well as Lucia and Krystina (I couldn't see the other girls' faces from my place). They just held onto to each other, crying tears of happiness and disbelief. Then Marina let go & looked up & our eyes met. I cannot explain the look- all I can say is I saw Jesus in her eyes & they were full of love.

Our visit wasn't as long as I had wished. Oksana wolfed down chips and a banana with some pop. I watched Marina fix her hair, look at a mark on her ear & pull up her socks. You could just see Jesus in her & how much she loved her little sister. We got to take some pics & see some of the rooms near us - 8-12 kids per room average.

When Marina introduced Lucia and I & said we were from USA, I didn't need a translater to tell me what she said. Oksana said she wanted to go with Marina & didn't want Marina to go to USA! This poor little girl thought we were adopting Marina & leaving her behind & that Marina had come to say goodbye! :-( Yet another thing that broke my heart!

I was so glad to take our daughters along to experience this. We soon said our goodbyes & Oksana left down the hallway waving goodbye as she left. I was overcome with emotion for I imagined my 2 youngest - Timmy & Sabrina - being separated like that and it just broke my heart to leave her there & take Marina back with us.

Oops! I had it straight in the post I lost. Oksana was separated from her sister because she has some learning problems so the reality of them ever being together as a family is slim to none unless they are adopted. It is a sad system, to say the least.

Once we left & got back into the van, Marina thanked me & Lucia for taking the time to take her to see her sister. Again, its the little things that mean the most! On the trip back I asked Helen for permission to take the girls for pizza - "Of course!"

So off to get pizza we went. Ate pizza, played air hockey and shopped a bit. Power went off for 1/2 hour so that was fun to chat in the dark. Time flew & it was time to take the girls back.

Upon getting back, Krystina called her grandmother to learn the news her great grandmother is dying and isn't expected to live through the night. Heartbroken again!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Tomorrow we skate?"

Today I woke up with sinus crud. Ugh! I have NO idea why? LOL

Olga wanted to come with us today but didn't want to go skating for fear of becoming ill again.

We dressed appropriately to go skating (we both wore thermal underwear this time! Sexy. NOT! LOL) and walked to the market to get a few necessities for the girls-you know, the usual: bananas, crab, chips, Sprite. LOL

Nastya went skating with us this time :o) Still no Alena nor Marina today. :o(

I was able to stay outside a little longer this time-my feet stayed warmer because I wore a pair of John's wool hunting socks!!! John skated too and they all had a good time though Krystina complained there was too much snow to skate. She would go out for a round and sit down and repeat. Julia is a trip. No, really! The girl spends more time on the ice than skating on top of it!! At one point, she took Papa down with her! She says she likes to skate but she hasn't quite caught the hang of it yet & trust me when I tell you it's painful to watch her! Especially when you see her ankles go from side to side onto the ice because there is no ankle support whatsoever on the skates - I am VERY surprised she hasn't gotten hurt yet. Rymma and Nastya did fairly well.

We were there about another 2 hours - half of which I stayed inside. As we left, Rymma said, "Tomorrow we skate?" To which Krystina and I replied at the same time, "No!" LOL

We went to the cafe for dinner where Krystina ordered for all of us. :o) By the time we ate and walked the girls across the street, the guard was getting ready to lock up for the night (7:00). We walked them inside and said quick goodnights.

The girls don't have school tomorrow because of a quarantine due to a flu epidemic. YUCK! Please pray that none of us gets it!!!

Not sure what we"ll do tomorrow but I know one thing for sure ... we're not ice skating!! LOL

Monday, February 18, 2008

2-18-08 Pics of the day

Photobucket Album

President's Day in UA

It was another COLD day in Gorlovka. Who knew??? But a least the sun was shining!!!

Olga couldn't be with us again today. Her mother and grandmother came down with what she had and she is now nursing them back to health. :o(

When we arrived at the orphanage today, Natasha (the volunteer), let us in the playroom. We hid in the plastic balls and surprised the girls when they came into the room.

Rymma, Julia and Krystina were in rare form today! They were giddy and giggly from the get-go!!! (Alena, Marina nor Nastya joined us today. :o( Julia who started out REALLY shy is showing more and more of her personality every day! She said her new name with a HUGE smile and then put her arms up in "Ta da!!!" fashion and just giggled!! :o) and she has joined in on the prankstering (is there such a word? LOL).

When were at the other market last night we got them more crab and found their lemon cookies and Skittles. When Rymma saw them in the grocery bag, her eyes got REAL big and she said, "THANK YOU!" Then she dug right into the cookies ... then the crab ... then the Skittles - passing each around to all of us. They were eating machines!!! Too funny!! The Skittles were really hard to chew and Rymma looked at me and said, "Lucia. Skittles Ukraine No; Skittles USA Yes." :o)

John asked if they wanted to watch a DVD. To our surprise, they said, "No. We go ice skating. 3:00." (Krystina can read and speak enough English to get by :o) My thoughts: AGAIN??? In this COLD?? Couldn't they text us ahead of time to let us know??? You guessed it - within the hour, we trekked down to the rink where I took some pictures and video for about 10 minutes then headed inside ... and froze some more. Ugh! (I honestly don't know how much more my toes and fingertips can take!!!) After about 1-1/2 to 2 hours later!!!, they finally called it quits.

We invited them to the cafe for dinner and at first Rymma didn't want to go but some time between the conversation and walking up the street, she changed her mind. John asked her via the PT if we needed to call Olga to order for them. She said, "Yes" and after Rymma spoke to Olga, she handed me the phone. Rymma had thought that Olga needed to order for US. I had Olga explain to Rymma that we could order our own food and when I recited it to her, her and Krystina' eyes got REAL BIG and Krystina giggled and said in an excited voice, "Oh, Lucia!! Good!!" :o) The waiter came over and Rymma took care of ordering for all of us-which included, of course, chips and chocolate for them. :o) Dinner was "the usual," with Julia and Krystina adding shrimp as an appetizer - with eyes and all!! BLAH!! Rymma snarled her nose up at them too.

We walked the girls back to tell them goodnight and they told us they want to skate again tomorrow. UGH! But, hey!! At least we have a warning to dress warm enough this time!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sleepless in Ukraine

Greetings, everyone,

Slept 2 hours and now I can't sleep so now the ramblings begin! :-)

Some thoughts or things I've noticed (or haven't seen);

- Fast food restaurants- saw a McDonalds in Kiev and Donetsk and that's been it. There isn't a Subway, KFC, Burger King. Not one, zip, nada or oop-chana here!

- The reason for this? There doesn't seem to be a hurry for food. We always wait forever to get our meals and it never comes out together. There is no rhyme or reason either. You might get your ice cream before the main meal or your salad after the soup or things like that.

- Taxis- Very good service here and quick to respond to call. The road to the orphanage has a water main break so it's a river of ice and is blocked off. Not a problem-they just drive on SIDEWALK!

- If I had to estimate, I would guess that 80 to 90% of the people here don't own a car and mostly use the bus and tram for transportation.

- Youth do not drive till 18 here. (Sorry, Sam!) Very uncommon to see woman drivers.


- I see more people out when it's colder than when it's warmer? It was-as Dr. Evil from Austin Powers says-"friggin freezing" today and we saw people everywhere ... especially at ice skating.

- Dogs-n-cats are everywhere but you can't get near them.

Now to things about the children here
.
If you are adopting... GREAT!
If you aren't ... Why not!? :-)

If you have not hosted or have a child picked out in advance this might not apply, but something to consider or at least be aware of. Just some simple facts that we have just recently discovered;

Just because you hosted a child does not 'reserve' or put that child on 'hold' in the system. Unless I am mistaken, a child over the age of 8 has the right to say yes or no to ANY opportunity. Meaning what? Meaning if you hosted a child and you're from the USA, there is no stopping a family from another country from seeing the child's profile at SDA and selecting that same child! The key here is COMMUNICATION!!! With our Rymma, we e-mailed and sent letters and gifts every time a family traveled so she knew we loved her and she knew we were coming for her. So if by chance another family selected her, she knew we wanted her and that she would say no to the offer.

I cannot say for other orphanages, but the teenagers here are allowed cell phones. Had I known this before, I would have purchased a prepaid phone so we could send text msgs. Phones here are fairly cheap and incoming calls or text msgs are FREE. So even if the child uses up all the air time, you can still call or txt them. They just couldn't respond. Now, having said that ... If you give them a phone with talk time on it then that phone is passed along to the friends to share calls. That's just the way it is. So you might only want to add minutes every now and then. It's like .10/min here talk time and .05/min to send text msg to USA. One thing I would recommend is getting a phone with email and only feeding email side of phone plan (data plan). None of the kids here use computers and don't have email so they would only be emailing you. Just a thought. Kyivstar.net and hope.com.ua are 2 decent providers here. With Kyivstar, I know you can add time online so you could add time from home in USA for your child in Ukraine.

I honestly HATE seeing young kids with cell phones ... just ask mine-they have to pay for their own! But in this case, it gives you a chance for DAILY contact with your child and at least they know you are working on homestudy or paperwork or what have you. But most importantly, it's COMMUNICATION with your child. I have never heard this subject mentioned before on any other adoption blog. So check with your adoption agency or your Ukraine facilitator FIRST before buying a phone!

Also before I forget ... to txt your child, you can txt msg for FREE from the Kyivstar's or Hope's website. The girls got a call from a friend now living in USA and the entire ROOM lite up. So what I am saying is they will want to call back to the orphanage once they are home so plan on an int'l phone plan or something ahead of time!

If you are reading this and have any questions, feel free to ask or perhaps I can point you in the right direction.

Blessed in Ukraine,

Agape,
John

Antarctica or Ukraine??

*SORRY. THERE ARE NO PICS FOR TODAY.*

We got to the orphanage later than we had planned (close to 3:00). A stopped by our flat after lunch to discuss our next steps and then we went to "our market" to grocery shop for the girls. We have been calling Olga when we need a cab but today we were able to get one on our own just outside the market thanks to a Russian/English phrase book Krystina gave us! :o)

While waiting for the girls to come down, some boys were playing ping-pong. I went over & said "Pryvet" or "Hello." They motioned to me if I wanted to play and I told them, "Nyet spasiba" or "No thank you." I wish I understood what they were saying as they talked, looked my way and smiled a lot. Me paranoid? Yup!

We were greeted by Rymma, Julia & Krystina. Rymma looked really cute in a skirt and when I pointed to it and said, "Nice!" she beamed! We joked around with them and showed them pictures from yesterday that John PhotoShop'd. Every so often you'd hear, "Aaah, [kloss].!" meaning "classy or very nice." They all use this phrase when they REALLY like something.

When were done looking at all the pictures, they told us they would be leaving in 10 minutes to go ice skating down the street. My first thought was "Are they serious? It's below freezing out there!!!" And John and I certainly weren't dressed warm enough at all!!

Next thing we know, we're at the rink!!! and I am freezing my fingers off videotaping!! (Julia wasn't going to wear gloves and I made her go get a pair.) I finallly couldn't stand it anymore (fingers and toes were stinging again) and headed inside. John and the girls cont'd to skate for almost an hour, I would guess. I stayed inside standing and waiting the whole time but I didn't mind. I could still see them when they passed the door; I got to paople-watch; and, it was warmer than outside!! When John and the girls came in they were all completely red from the cold. I KNOW John had to be freezing-he wore lighter clothing than me!

Some of the kids didn't get skates because they ran out of smaller-sized skate (Yes, there were that many people there. Crazy!) so they would walk or run beside their friend(s) on the ice. And then the kids would trade off the skates so his or her friend got a chance. :o)

By the time we walked back to the orphanage, I was completely frozen-my legs, my toes, my hands (with gloves!), my face. Even the PT was too cold to work again. And you know it's cold when John complains it's cold!!

We hung out and defrosted in the main hallway with Rymma, Julia, Krystina and Marina until we were told they needed to go to supper. We called Olga for a taxi - which lately our taxi rides have been a lot better! - and stopped at the our other market for food for "home."

Olga sent us a text msg this evening that she is feeliing better and will join us again tomorrow-the girls ask for her every day.. But I have to admit-it has been nice to have this time alone with all the girls. We have made strides in our communication with all of them since their attention has not been divided between us and Olga and there has been a lot more interaction between all of us. At the same time, it will be nice to see Olga's smiling face and hear her, "Good morning" when we see her. :o)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

2-16-08 Pics of the day

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Day 23 - Silly Saturday!

We spent the morning relaxing around our flat, headed to the orphanage after lunch, and spent the afternoon watching the last half of Tomb Raider 2 and just "hangin' out" with the girls in the playroom.

They all loved seeing the pictures of Ohio in the book we brought-"Ohio Impressions." They ooh'd & aah'd about the nature and cityscape pictures.

Alena used the pocket translator a lot to speak with us-way cool! When I showed her that I knew how to spell all their names in Russian, she told me I did well! :o) She was pleased to learn that John and I want to learn Russian.

Marina joked around more today with all of us - she chased Nastya around with the big bear making kissing sounds! Too funny! Nastya was her happy-go-lucky self. :o)

Julia & Rymma kept busy with the camera and video camera-who knew? (Those of you adopting older children, we suggest bringing a digital camera with extra memory devices & batteries. They run our battery out every day!!) Krystina (correct spelling-LOL) joined us after a visit with her babushka and great babushka. It was one big party after that! LOL

These girls are SO much fun! They chase each other, pounce & pile on each other, and dance with each other-just like real sisters! They all get along so well-it's amazing!! And they have a new game! Cannonball into the plastic balls. They jump into them one at a time up to three at a time. It's a hoot!!

While we were hangin' out, a call came in on Alena's cell phone. The girls squealed & said, "Julia in Iowa!!" In English. The girls took turns talking with her but Rymma spent the most time. We will definitely need to look into an unlimited long distance provider!!!

After hangin' out & goofin' off for well over an hour, we headed to the market for the infamous snacks. This time we got an ice cream cake-vanilla ice cream w/chocolate coating & cherry in the middle. When we returned, the girls invited us into another piece of their world-"their kitchen." This is where they can cook snacks with an oven and microwave & kitchen essentials.

We all sat down at the table & the girls had me cut the cake. I felt like I was serving my kids dessert as I handed a plate to each of the girls. The girls all waited till everyone was served. We then all held hands and thanked God for our time together and for the cake!! :o) It's ok that they didn't understand the words; they know we are Christian and know that we were thanking our God. There was a little cake left over & two caretakers came in & the girls offered some to them. They were very appreciative & said they recognized us from photos. :o)
It was neat to see all the girls working together to clean up & wash the dishes we had used. They smiled at me when they saw me help, too. :o)

Before coming "home," John & I ate dinner at the cafe. I ordered our dinner without Olga-who is still ill :o(-and it came back right!! YEAH!! OK-so it helps to know the menu too. But it's still another milestone!!

Tomorrow we head to "our market" for another grocery run for "home" and to shop the girls' grocery list. This time they asked for Sour Skittles! When I asked Rymma what she did with all the candy she bought yesterday, she said they shared it with all the other kids! Another lesson - 1 Timothy 6:18: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share."

Oh! And by the way ... Julia can say her new name perfectly!!! She's been practicing since court yesterday and telling everyone!! :o) Rymma is still working on McLaughlin. :o)

******

We got a surprise phone call from Shauna this evening, too! :o) Love ya,' Shauna!! We love and miss you, too, Derek, Sammy, Sabrina and Timmy!!!

Mamachia

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's a girl(s)!

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It' A Girl(s)!! - A Double Blessing

We are PROUD to announce the addition of our newest daughters:

RYMMA HOPE McLAUGHLIN
and
JULIA MELINA McLAUGHLIN!!!!

WOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!

We appeared in court today around noon but the proceeding didn't start until closer to 12:30ish. In Ukrainian law, there must be two disinterested witnesses and our second one didn't show up until then. Present were the judge, a prosecutor, a rep from the General Counsel (she witnessed our first meeting with the girls), the social worker from the orphanage, the two witnesses, our facilitator (Angelina) & the four of us. Usually a rep from. SDA is there too but instead their letter of conclusion was read into the record. Poor John was completely outnumbered-it was a room full of women!

The hearings used to be 10-15 minutes long but since Jan 1, 2008, all court proceedings must be tape recorded. Our hearing lasted about an hour once it got started.

The girls had to sign a paper that they understood a law or something and then the judge began by reading the parties' names & the purpose of the hearing. She went on to explain how the girls are eligible for adoption according to Ukrainian law and the process of the court. We were then called upon individually to answer questions posed by the judge who then asked if anyone had further questions: Name, birthdate, address (this was a fun one to hear translated!), occupation, why do you want to adopt these children?

The prosecutor asked me a couple add'l questions: How have you kept in contact with the children? Are you ready for the stresses of adding 2 more chldren to your family? Describe your home & how you will accommodate 2 more children in your family.

We were then asked to confirm the names we chose for Rymma's and Julia's new birth cert's.

Next, it was the girls' turn: Do you want to be adopted? Do you want these individuals to be your parents? Do you accept your new names? There were a couple other questions that weren't translated - all to which they answered, "Da."

Everyone then gave their opinion & whether they thought there were any obstacles to Rymma's or Julia's adoptions. No one believed there were any-the social worker even pointed out that there is a bond b/w us & the girls & that they would be lucky to have us as their parents. :o)

We were asked to leave the courtroom so they could make a decision. After about 20 minutes, we were called back in, told there were no objections and congratulations on the addition of our new daughters!!!

The judge congratulated Rymma & Julia, told them to be good to their parents & have a wondeful future!

As much as we originally wanted the 10 days to be waived, we are thankful for the extra time with Rymma and Julia and their friends & the add'l time for them to prepare leave their friends to go home to the USA. The final decree will go into effect.on Feb 26th.

To celebrate, we went to a nicer pizza place with A & our new daughters!! The pizza was really good. It made us both hungry for Cross Roads Pizza back home. (We have agreed this will be our 1st meal when we get home!!! :o)

We stopped by our flat to change before heading to the orphange & to get a DVD to watch. The girls gave themselves a tour & seemed relaxed-a good sign!!

At the orphanage-after all the girls looked at ALL the pics on the laptop, we watched about 1/2 of Tomb Raider 2 before it was time to go & say our goodbyes. Have we mentioned how much we LOVE our hugs and kisses???

We can't thank you ALL enough for your prayers. Our God is an awesome God and we praise Him for our wonderful, new daughters & the love, prayers & support of ALL our family & friends!!!

Love,
John & Lucia

Feb 14 - "...better than any flowers."

PLEASE READ JOHN'S POSTS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY FIRST.

The gifts we received yesterday can only be described as "indescribeable." John has recapped the day and his thoughts - most of which are my thoughts as well. However, here are a few of my personal thoughts of yesterday:

The day started with waking up to my hubby surprising me with ... not flowers ... not a Valentine's Day card. ...not breakfast in bed ... but a clean-shaven face!!! The girls all make frowns when he kisses them because of his whiskers so he decided - without consulting with his wife, I might add!!!! LOL - to rid of his mustache for the girls. And, I must say, he's still rather handsome, don'tcha' think?? (See pics from 2/15)

John describes many of the details in his post so I won't bore you with it all a second time, except to say...

At the dance, all the girls were dancing like crazy!!! I remember being like that at all my high school dances but that was wayyyyy back in the day! I would stop long enough to cool down and tell Christina, "Lucia sta'-ray." (Lucia's old.) She would get so mad at me and say, "No!" :o)

And may I just say that my hubby can bust a pretty good move!! He was out there dancing each song with the girls too and having the time of his life!

A song was finally being played that was slow enough that it could have been considered a slow song so I grabbed my hubby and began to "slow dance" with him. (The song was "To The Left" by Beyonce-not your typical "love song" for a husband and wife but it had the right speed for a slow song. :o) When the girls first. saw us, it was one LOUD, "Oooooh." LOL There was a whole room of kids watching Rymma and Julia's parents dancing together! :o) Next thing we know, there is a parade of girls holding hands and skipping around us in a circle, going faster and faster! And then they would close in on us with their arms raised again and again. As John said, "Time stood still." I whispered in his ear, "This is WAY better than any flowers."

I thank God for the present, for the presents of my husband, ALL our children, the children who blessed us yesterday and for the memories of yesterday that will be with me ALWAYS!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

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Valentine's Day in Ukraine

Valentine Greetings from Ukraine!
First off to our children at home, we love you and miss you so!

Again, I slept 2 hrs & now am sleepless in Ukraine. Sounds like a movie perhaps? (Grin) Tomorrow is court but before I move ahead I would like to look back over today first.

Today was one of the most unforgettable days that in my life as a father. It must have been one of those days like in Tomb Raider where all the planets lined up in a row every 5000 years or something like that! :-)

First thing this morning I received an AWESOME email from my eldest daughter, Shauna. Instead of divulging details, I will just say I am soooo proud of her and encouraged from her. I love you Shauna! So that started my day off GREAT and we went for a walk to market at the corner.

We had brought gifts for Rymma & Julia for Valentine's from home but after meeting all the other girls here too decided to go get things for seven other girls. So we went up to the corner market this morning.

We found some really cute teddy bears that had a white shirt on them & embroidered words. Somebody Loves You... Those words are so simple, yet so powerful. I don't think we could have found anything else to describe how we feel for these other girls than these simple words. So we purchased 7 bears, 7 gift bags and 2 bags of hearts on a string for a door decoration that we cut apart to tie a heart to each bag.

We came back to the flat and assembled our gifts for the girls. Each girl got a bear, a heart, 3 pieces of candy (m&m, snicker & twix) and Rymma and Julia got Valentine cards in with their bags. I forgot to mention that Olga was sick so we were on our own today.

When we called Olga for the taxi, she sent her friend, Gary, who drove us to Donetsk, to pick us up & take us to exchange money and get flowers for the girls. So that really worked out well and we were at orphange before 3pm. Soon the girls came down and this time they brought Christina along too. First things first- we were greeted with our normal hugs and kisses. However, the girls had one hand behind their back. And right after the hugs n kisses, we got the cards they had made for us (see photos!) Christina isn't ours yet she took the time and effort to make us a card like Rymma and Julia did. So the day just kept getting better!

It was a riot to watch Rymma peeking into the grocery bags to see what we had brought & the bewilderment in her eyes trying to figure out who all the bags were for. When we told her that mama n papa had not only brought gifts for her & Julia but also for 7 of her friends you should have seen her eyes light up!

We brought an extra rose for the director and 2 BIG bags of Valentine candy to be handed out for the other children. Rymma and Julia presented the rose to her. The director speaks english (yeah!) And thanked us for the gifts and wished us well for court. She also thanked us for becoming Rymma and Julia's parents and said that her wish was all the children there would find loving parents. She invited us to a Valentine program that started at 4pm.

So off upstairs we went to hand out gift bags. First, it was Rymma, Julia and Christina. Then Rymma went to get the rest of the gang. She found them all except Alena who was in the program. It was hello and hugs and kisses from each girl. Then it was fun to watch them open the bags. The girls all went awwwwwwwww to the cute little teddy bear. They all smiled over the candy and the next thing I knew every girl would come over and tap a couple m&m's into my hand to which I would reply spasiba which is thank you in Russian.

So off upstairs to 4th floor. Never been to 4th floor and something new. The girls whisked us to our seats. All the children around us kept turning around to see what all the commotion was about. What was it? Yep! An oddity... Parents

It was a feeling that hopefully I will never forget in one aspect and and then in the same breath, I hope you never experience the empty feeling I felt. It was a sense of pride for Rymma and Julia of a kinda " hey, check out my parents and they came to watch the program." And then I saw it in some of the other kids eyes of a look that I cannot describe but other than to simply say " what was wrong with me? Why couldn't you have picked me?"

Don't get me wrong-it was a very happy occasion and it was fun watching the program. All the children seemed happy for Rymma and Julia. It was just things I picked up on or felt personally. Several of the girls' friends were in the program and every time we made eye contact, they would smile and wave to us. Originally we had planned that after the program we would take the girls across the street to the cafe. But there was something I didn't know...

A DANCE! Yeppers, pilgrims! You heard me straight up. Within minutes of the program ending, the next thing I knew benches were pulled back, chairs pushed out of the way and then music started blaring. Oh my! It was like jr high all over again! This COULD NOT be happening! Lucia and I just kinda were like the 'chaperone' couple in the corner just swaying with the music & tapping our toes. Then next thing I know the girls are grabbing Chia and her grabbing me and off to the middle of the dancefloor we went.

So for the next 1 1/2 hours we ALL danced. Yep, even me! I told you all the planets lined up! But one of the neatest experiences in my life happened next. I can't recall the song but it was kinda of a swing dance where Chia & I were dancing together. oops see next...

Valentine's Day-Part II

Sorry ran out of field on blackberry and had to to another post.

So like I was saying ... I am dancing with my wife and the next thing I know we are SURROUNDED by at least 8 girls who formed a circle holding hands. Then they proceeded to skip around us and they started circling faster and faster. I felt like the prom King dancing with his prom Queen. I felt like I was in the movie Titantic or something. ("I'll never let go Jack, I'll never let go." But she lied!) Hahaha

Time stood still! That memory will always be with me. Once they stopped circling us, they all closed in and rose their hands above their heads and then back out again to a large circle and then back in again and again. Chia and I were just kinda dumbfounded and numb-mostly shock! All the kids there wanted us there. Our girls wanted us to dance and dance with THEM. That's why I danced the entire time because I saw the moment for what it was and it took it!

Watching Rymma and Julia dance is indescribable to me to explain. Simply put-when I watch Sammy dance and sing, I cry every time because she looks so free and careless when she performs. It is the same for Rymma. I just cried watching her dance. She dances just like Sam. ;-) Julia really came out of her shell today and it was nice to see a side of her we hadn't seen before.

By the time we thought about going to cafe, it was getting late. Christina was really bummed that we couldn't go to dinner. She is really growing on us both and it's REALLY going to be hard to tell her goodbye when we finally leave. :-(

I am so thankful for today. I only wish all our children were at the dance! It was a day I really didn't want to end but it was time to go.

Leaving here every day gets harder and harder for all of us. Rymma and Julia soon will be leaving their friends and their family for ours in the USA. And the other girls know that they are staying here. Waiting. Perhaps praying for mamas and papas. The girls want to come back someday and I have promised them I will bring them back. but for now I cherish every hug, every kiss. It is now a habit for Julia to keep getting back in line to hug Chia and I. Today, some of the other girls started that with me.

As I said in the beginning, today was awesome as a father. It has been one of the most memorable Valentine's I have ever experienced. My thanks be to God for allowing me today to enjoy this day with the girls and hope that I have many more Valentine's with all my kids in the future.

Lucia and I thank for all for your love and support and PRAYERS while we are here. My prayer has been to waive the 10 days. My new prayer is for God to use me here. If 10 more days is what He wants then let me use these 10 days somehow to glorify Him. Everyday is a gift. That is why it is called ... The Present.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing Lucia and I here now. Thank you for giving us the eyes to see the little things and appreciate everything you provide for us. Thank you for blessing us and allowing us to have an AWESOME day.

With Love from Ukraine,
John

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2-13-08 Pics of the day

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A Loving, Caring Heart

Greetings, everyone!

Sorry we are getting a day behind. This is for Wednesday's events.

I again have not been sleeping well. I am lucky to get 3 to 4 hours then I am up for 3 to 4 hours. So we slept in and were taking our time when we got a call that we needed to leave in half hour to go do passport application.

So we got the applications for the girls passports done at the notary and came back to the flat for lunch before heading out to see the girls as usual each afternoon. Also as usual, we hear the girls coming and running down the steps to see us. Olga couldn't come with us so we brought the laptop and the Russian DVD we were given by Anya and Andrei.

Using our pocket translater, we asked them the normal round of questions: How was school? Good. What did you learn? Nothing. So it's pretty much the same hear as at home when we talk to Sam and Sabrina about their day. :o) We asked if they wanted to watch a DVD and they said yes. Things got interesting when we asked if there friends could come watch it too.

Rymma is getting used to reaching for the translater when she needs to communicate now. (Yeah, God!) she typed in her answer and we got our first answer- "actions beside them" - which we told her we didn't understand. So she said "director" and we understood that. Then she typed again and we got "contest between them." So we thought that the friends were fighting. We decided to call Olga. She explained that the girls were at a program with the director. We decided to wait for their friends before watching the DVD.

We brought groceries for the girls and told them to take them upstairs and then said we wanted to go to the market. Rymma was puzzled since we just brought them food that we needed to go to store again. When I explained it was for snacks for the movie she agreed very quickly it was a good idea. :o)

Off to the store, slipping and sliding on the ice we went. Rymma really got a good laugh out of me nearly losing my footing. I imagined myself being perfectly parallel to the ground, hanging in mid-air to only hit the ground squarely and having the air knocked out of me. Thank goodness it didn't happen. But when Rymma slipped a few seconds later and I got to laugh ... oh, how the tables turned!

Our trip to the store was an event in itself and a lesson for papa as well. These beautiful daughters show so much compassion and caring for others that just amazes me. They never seem to pick something for just themselves but something they know everyone will eat. Rymma picked bags of chips and some other snack (sounded like crunchy croutons). While in the store a cat snuck in to get warm. Julia asked if we could get the cat some food. Another lesson of caring. I found this request odd from her because she said she didn't like cats. In the photos you can see what happens. The cat went berserk when Julia tore open the packet, trying to get out of Rymma's arms. Once I saw the cat was fed I said, "OK, let's go." Rymma's face scowled, "No." Another lesson learned. They wanted to wait for the cat to eat so that they could put it back inside the warm store. Boy! Am I in trouble with our 4 outdoor cats at home! LOL It makes papa proud that they have caring hearts the same as our other children. :o)

With snacks in hand, we went back and found their friends to watch a movie together. Oddly enough, they picked Tomb Raider, Laura Croft to watch. Rymma, Julia, Nastia, Christina, Marina, Alena, Vika all watched the movie with us and they watched the whole movie this time because it was in Russian.

After the movie, we went downstairs to say goodbye to ALL the girls. The girls form lines to give us all hugs and kisses. Julia has started every time now to get back in line and give us both more hugs and kisses. So we left 7 smiling faces waving goodbye to us. It gets harder and harder each day to say goodbye to all of the girls there.

As I said, this post is for Wednesday and it is now Thursday here - the day before court. To be honest, I am no longer praying that the 10 days be waived but now that it is that I can follow God's will for us here. The girls are expecting the 10 days yet and if we leave early next week I don't think they are ready. So my prayer is to continue building relationships here and to prepare them to leave their friends.

Agape,
John

A Lesson in Love <3

I know that John has written about his feelings today. I wanted to add just a short post of my thoughts of today as well-I promise to be brief. :o)

What you may not understand is all these kids have HUGE hearts. Every day they do something that proves they are shining examples of Philippians 2:4: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.

When asking the girls if they want anything, they think not only of themselves but also their "family" at the orphanage. I told Rymma at the market that I love her big heart and she just smiled her big, beautiful smile that she has that just melts Mama's heart.

As John mentioned, Julia says she doesn't like cats. (We will have to work on that! :o) But she set that aside today to ask for food for a hungry kitty, carry it outside, help to feed it and carry it back inside to the warmth of the market. I know God was smiling down on her!!

While eating snacks during the movie, rather than keeping the individual bags of chips or a whole candy bar to themselves, each girl passed her bag around to share and they split the candy bar amongst themselves, offering each to John and me as well..

We could ALL learn a lesson from these beautiful children: Set aside your personal wants & desires, jealousies, prejudices, hatred and fears and look for ways to bless others as your brothers and sisters in Christ and as creations of one God.

What a great lesson in love for Valentine's Day! <3 I can't wait to see what lessons unfold tomorrow!!!

Mamachia

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 19 - A Visit From Friends

Andrei & Anya arrived around 9:00 this morning after traveling all night by train from Yevpatoria.

We discussed world events, Russian history & adoption in Ukraine. They asked a lot of questions about America and our home. I showed them my scrapbook and a book called "Ohio Impressions" that has great photos of our state. Anya said that she wants to build a home in the woods. John told her he could PhotoShop her into one! LOL

They also spoke of the team from RiverTree who did demolition of a pool room at their home in October 2006. They said that our guys were the best team!! Anya talked about Bob R., Sr., & how much he proudly spoke about Natasha :o)-his granddaughter who was in the process of adoption from Ukraine at the time-her adoption was final in May 2007.

A while back Andrei had sent his camera to John for repair. When John received the return pkg, he found that they had actually replaced it with a newer model. John presented it to Andrei-and some other nifty gadgets for his PC-and he was like.a little boy at Christmas! We presented them with some family gifts and a few gifts for Anya-OTC meds (adult & kids), baking soda, spices, two big jars of JIF peanut butter!

They brought us some English CDs to help with the girls and Narnia and Signs DVDs in Russian. :o) They wanted to get out a little bit and see Gorlovka so took a little walk and when they returned brought us gifts! Crab & shrimp chips, a DVD with the Mummy, Pirates & Tomb Raider movies in Russian and Turkish Delight! Thank you, Andrei & Anya!! *HUG*

We saw the girls this afternoon & Andrei & Anya went with us. The girls were very shy & Rymma was not feeling well. We went to the cafe for a late lunch-Julia went with us but Rymma stayed back to lie down. John asked her if she wanted us to bring her back fish pizza and we got "the look." LOL

At the cafe, Julia told Olga that she understands what we say but can't talk back in English. A breakthrough!! After that, she was very cuddly with me. She is learning how to handle John's pranks too! We are all growing closer every day!! :o) John took Julia to the little market afterwards to get Rymma some Sprite-and crab!!! They LOVE it!!

When we returned to the orphanage, Rymma & Christina joined us and Rymma was in a much better mood. We joked around with them and had a lot of laughs. We asked them if they wanted us to bring them anything tomorrow and they asked for-of all things-a bag of potatoes to fry! We asked them if there was anything else & they gave us a grocery LIST! LOL What is great about these girls (all of them) is they don't ask for just themselves but for their friends too. :o)

They all three asked if we have to wait 10 days after court if we would be leaving and coming back. I wish I had had the camera ready -- they all three grinned from ear-to-ear when we told them that we will be staying!! It melted my heart to see that they were so happy!

All too soon it was time to say good night and get Andrei & Anya back in time for their return train. We all stopped at the grocery store on the way back "home." Andrei and Anya bought snacks for their train ride & we played "personal shopper" for the girls. :o)

Andrei & Anya visited with us in our flat a little more before they had to leave (we misunderstood their departure time). John & Andrei talked about computers and "manly stuff" in the living room (they did fairly well with John speaking in English and Andrei in Russian :o) while Anya & I talked more about adoption over tea in the kitchen (in English).

We really enjoyed our visit with Andrei & Anya today!. Before they left, they made us promise that we would come to Yevpatoria the next time we are in Ukraine!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Packing Hints

To those of you gals who will be traveling soon, my advice to you is to pack light! It IS possible to survive on 5 pairs of pants (I have 2 blue, 1 black and 1 khaki pairs of jeans and one pair of black dress pants), 4-6 tops, a heavier sweater, a couple light sweaters to layer, a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers. I do have a skirt and blouse for court as well.. Basically, if you choose outfits that can be coordinated in several ways, you are good to go! And, believe me when I tell you no one will notice you wore the same thing a few days before!

Some other things you will want to bring:

1. Slippers - Our flats have been pretty warm but slippers help too.
2. Can opener - Our flat has the ration can type that resembles a bottle opener. We have not been able to find any other kind in the stores. :o(
3. Baggies! - There are NO Ziploc baggies here. Bring them with you-you won't regret it! Great for leftovers when cooking at "home."
4. WARM gloves - These are essential

5. Mini-flashlight - To help when a breaker has tripped (Yes! It can and did happen thanks to yours truly. Found out the first day in our flat in Gorlovka that I can't run the washer and hot water pot at the same time. Ugh!)
This will also help when lighting the oven. There are no pilot lights or electronic ignition on the stoves. In our current flat, there is a gas valve you turn on when you want to cook and then you turn it off when you're done. And I have only seen one microwave at Slavik's at DCU.
6. Heavy socks - I have been wearing two pairs of socks at a time every day since we've been in Ukraine.

If I come up with any other suggestions, I will let you know!

Mamachia

2-11-08 Pics of the day

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Another Day in Madagascar

Today we slept in till after 10:00. I straightened up the flat a little bit, washed a load of clothes & re-organized my suitcase. I just had to give in to my cleaning bug. LOL

Before long it was time to go see the girls & we were put in that "little room" again. Ugh! (I finally got a picture of it today. Looks inviting, huh? Yeah. My thoughts too.)

We texted the girls this morning to have a good day at school but didn't get our usual reply. :o( When we asked if they got our message, they said they had and just looked at each other. Rymma then fessed up that Julia had called a wrong number to add a ringtone she wanted & used up her time on the phone card. We did get her another one later this evening & she was a happy camper-she has the right number to call for the ringtone now. :o) John told her that he had scratched the number on the back of one of his cards too hard that he can't read the first 3 numbers to use it. They both got a kick out of that!

John asked what they learned in school today. Their answer: nothing. Typical. LOL The girls thanked us again for the market run last night & said they had a great dinner with their friends. I can't even begin to imagine how much they are going to miss having dinner with their friends when we return home. They are one big family.

After much "small talk" and asking if there was anywhere they wanted to go or anything they wanted to do., Julia finally asked to go to the pizza shop. Rymma & Julia decided to try a different kind of pizza this time-with crab & fish! YAK! And that is what Rymma thought of it too after she saw it & tasted it. The look on her face was priceless. Snarled up nose & all. (It had crab, shrimp & some other kind of salty fish. I imagine we'll get the same look when she tries new things when we get home too.) She told Olga that the crab tasted different warmed up & she didn't think it would smell so fishy! Olga told her, "You ordered it!" LOL John told her to take the pizza ouside to cool the crab! LOL Both girls ate one slice each and John ate 3 slices. The girls then ate a piece each of our pizza &, of course, chips.

Julia and John played a game of air hockey & Julia threw in the towel when he beat her. She then asked me to play. Maybe she thought I would be an easy win for her! I beat her first game & she beat me second game. Both were good games-no holds barred on either one.. But she definitely hates to lose!!
Before leaving, we shopped for a gift for their hairdresser & bought them some Valentine cards for their friends. When we got back to the orphanage, we got to see Christina for just a minute. :o) It was good night hugs & kisses all around.

Tonight we texted the girls: "Good night, Rymma & Julia. Tell Nastya, Ilena, Christina, Marina, Ina & Vica good night too. Love Mama & Papa." (Vica is Rymma's roommate. We just found out today that she has been in the hospital with measles and being released today. This explained why we haven't seen her since last week.)

We stopped at the grocery store on the way "home" for some essentials-TP, bath soap, bath gel (for me!), dish soap, bread, pop & some other misc foods (i.e., sweets. Shhhh!)

We are having company tomorrow so I cleaned the bathroom, swept the floors & vacuumed the rug. It felt like home-in a good way-& I had a feeling of accomplishment when I was done. "Consuela"-what John calls me when I get on one of my cleaning frenzies at home-took the rest of the night off and took a nice hot shower. Ahhh!

Our company tomorrow is Andrei & Anya from. Yevpatoria where John & several men from our church met them while doing missions work at Dyetsky Dom in October 2OO6. We are looking forward to spending the day with them & Helen has given us permission to bring them to the orphanage to meet Rymma & Julia. :o) Andrei & Anya have 6 adopted children from Ukraine & 2 biological children so they have a heart for kids too!! :o)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

2-10-08 Pics of the day

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Standing In The Son's Light

When we got up this morning we didn't know just how much the Son was shining on our day. And we got a little bit of the sunlight too!! YEAH!!

I know that God is hearing all your prayers and it is so neat to see Him at work answering them. John got a full night's sleep last night! Amen! He really needed it. Thank you!!

My husband surprised me this morning by making me breakfast. He makes a wicked omelet and it was yummy! And he did a great job cleaning up afterwards. Thanks, Honey! :o)

We ventured out in public without Olga again this afternoon-going a little further this time to the grocery store and then to the pizza shop. We were on a hunt for a movie in Russian for the girls to watch. We did find Rambo and Die Hard - not so great choices. No movie but we took advantage of getting a few groceries while we were there and heading "home." (We did end up finding more of the awesome lemon cookies at the pizza place! Mmm!)

When we returned from the stores, we texted Olga to call us a cab. She told us she slept well last night (she watched a scary movie the night before and had nightmares-silly girl!) and that her body was aching all over. No doubt from trying to stay up on her ice skates yesterday!!

We met up with the girls around 3:00. Julia was all smiles and full of hugs and kisses today! :o) She was another ray of sunshine in our day!

We asked if they wanted to watch a movie with their friends. We got permission to use the playroom and soon Nastya, Ilena and Marina joined us. Whille waiting for John to set up the DVD, the girls took all kinds of pics. We had fun with the pyramid one!! We all laid on the floor to watch Pirates 2, shared a bag of chips and crab, and John gave Julia one of his infamous back and leg/foot rubs and she LOVED it (Sorry, Nieci! :o).

About 3/4 of the way through the movie, Christina joined us. The movie was secondary after that! LOL It was girly silliness from then on! :o)

After much frustration in Rymma trying to tell us something about going to the little market up the street, we ended up calling Olga. We got it all straightened out and took all the girls to the market with us. The girls bought snacks to eat together after we left. Christina and I walked back arm-in-arm and pointing to the ice on the street she asked me, "You have in America?" "Da. We have in America." :o) This is just one example of the innocence of these girls.

Earlier, Christina had come from her room with a photo album (our girls had bought it for her). On the front, she has a small picture of her mother, a pic of a friend in America and our first pic with Rymma and Julia. WOW ... What an honor to be on the cover. She showed us pictures of herself when she was younger, family pictures, ones of trips she has taken to Odessa (another area of DonetsK) and Italy where she was hosted a couple of years ago, and pics of friends who are now in America. We are truly honored that she shared these with us..

At the market, she got a sad look on her face and asked me if Rymma and Julia would be going to America in February. I told her that we have court on Friday, that we don't know when we will leave but it looks like it will be in February. She simply looked down in sadness. :o( It is going to be bittersweet for ALL of us when our time to leave comes. All of the girls are very special to us.

As we said our good nights to all the girls, Julia totally surprised me! She gave me a big, bear hug and kiss and would cut back in line for more!!! And all the while smiling and giggling! It was GREAT!!!! I loved it!!!

Christina gave me a huge hug bye and looked at me with such sadness in her eyes that I had to look away to hide the tears that welled up in my own eyes. I know she feels a strong connection too. It's very obvious in her eyes, her smles, and her hugs.

God is at work here in Gorlovka with these girls who have become so very special to us. We don't know His plans but we do know that He is definitely in our midst and He is calling on us for a purpose here.

Just for Uncle Bob! :o)

Since we know you don't like my "too much to read" recaps of what happens from day-to-day, we leave you with our Cliff Notes version:

Today was good. (add manly grunt!)

LOL
John Boy & Mamachia

Religion & Ice skating

Greetings all,
I did not notice before yesterday the parallel between Christ and Ice skating. How's so?

I see it this way...
That Christ is always around but too many times we only reach for Him when we are in need of Him instead of simply reaching out for Him at anytime.
Every time I skated around the rink, one of my daughters or Olga reached for me, yet they didn't want to let go of the wall. How many times do we do this ourselves? We want to follow Christ but are too afraid to get off the wall and go with the Father. Wow! What a simple, powerful lesson a simple thing as ice skating can be? That we can have fun with our Father and let go of things we don't need to hold onto any more and have our faith through Him! What fun! :-)

As I skated yesterday I was truly thankful for simples things: 1- a simple coloring from Julia that said she and Rymma loved mama n papa. 2- Yesterday was the first time Julia kissed me on my cheek time on her own. 3- that I take for granted too many simple things that I don't appreciate enough. Things like playing with my kids. My girls have not had opportunities like our other children. Yesterday at pizza @ the mall, Helena asked what was wrong with the girls.. I think they were on overload because they never done things like that before. 4- a simple thing like a bumper car ride I had done 100 times at least. Rymma had no clue how to get the car going. The lady told her to spin the wheel and she did but pretty much just staying in a small circle the length of the ride. They don't know how to swim or ride a bike.

This is a blessing in one respect. The aspect of being able to show them and teach them these simple things. I look forward to spring time and getting out on bicycles. It's almost like the opportunity to relive part of their childhood and form some great memories. I lie awake at night sleepless over wondering what has happened to them in their past. Rymma has bite marks on her cheek from being attacked by a dog when she was around 2 yrs old. The majority of the girls here have scars on their faces and it shudders my imagination of how they got them.

The most memorable memory for me yesterday was this: On the trip back to the orphanage, Rymma curled up against me to sleep and Julia leaned up against my arm around Rymma and fell asleep. Of course, Chia was already out leaning on Julia.. But it was the first time I truly felt that everyone was comfortable and was FAMILY.

Yesterday was also a painful day to me. For Anya it was her 15th birthday. I wanted nothing more than to sneak her home with us. I wanted to make her birthday something special. Yet, she was not allowed to go with us for something-she got in trouble the other day. :-( But it was so painful to me for this reason. A birthday is a time to celebrate ... not so for Anya. It is a clock ticking louder and louder that she is now 364 days and counting down to her ability of being adopted prior to her 16th birthday. This is something I truly wish that no more children here have to experience! We have already met 2 other friends of Rymma n Julia who are 16 & 17 and have missed a chance at forever family. And what even saddens me more is the fact that they are great young ladies! They are special and I know it is not their fault! It breaks my heart and I know how much more Jesus loves these girls. My prayer for them is to rise up out of this and have a bright and safe future.

Thank you to our Lord, Jesus Christ. He has brought us here for His purpose and His reason. I am humbled that I can follow Him and reach for Him at ANY TIME and not just when I am on the wall and afraid to let go!

Agape,
John

Saturday, February 9, 2008

2-9-08 Pics of the day- Donetsk

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Day 16 - Not your typical taxi ride-unless you're in Ukraine!

Today started out rushed. Olga told us last night that she would be picking us up around 9:35-9:40. She texted us around 9:20 saying she would be here in 5 minutes!! I told John, "She can't do that to an American girl!" He just rolled his eyes and said, "Better get movin'!" LOL I still needed to fix my hair, brush my teeth, get dressed and put on my face paint. But I did it and we got out to the cab in record time. :o)

Every morning John texts the girls when we reach their street to let them know we are arriving. They are usually in the main hall waiting for us but this morning we were greeted by Anya and Nastya on their way out. Anya thanked us for her birthday "tort" & said it was delicious. The girls came down within minutes & Julia handed us a drawing of a bear holding a heart & saying, "I love you Mama end Papa." What a special gift! It now joins Tim's cross picture on our fridge but will find a permanent home in a frame on our wall when we get home.

We took a taxi into Donetsk. I am not sure how fast we were going on the highway. I couldn't see the speedometer. All I know is I felt like a participant in NASCAR or Indy!! (John later told me he was going around 120 kph.)

The driver pretty much stayed on the center line the whole way, moving aside only to let other "racers" pass. At one point, he passed a car in the left berm, just avoiding a crater of a pothole. He also loves to swerve (violently) to miss potholes BTW. UGH!

We finally reached DCU & Slavik took us on a mini-tour of the campus. We got to see where Shauna taught last summer. Gail, I took a pic of Slavik at his desk for you! He said you didn't get to see it when you were here. :o)We met his wife, Oksana, & their children, Helena, Alberto, and another son & Slavik's father who is visiting.

We also met Casey-the cat. This cat falls asleep on anyone within minutes. It's too funny! I wanted to keep her but Helena wouldn't let me. (Gail, Slavik also talked of your love for animals & asked about (Abby) and Arizona. :o)

We headed to town to an indoor skating rink-passing "Shauna's AMCTOP." :o)-a store she frequented while she was here.

The taxi ride was very crowded. The driver and Olga were in front. Julia on my lap, Helena on John's lap and poor Rymma squished in the middle. (We definitely couldn't have done this had John and I not lost weight!!!) It felt like the VW loaded with clowns at the circus!

At the rink, John, Olga and the girls skated while I took pics and video. They had a lot of fun. Julia didn't do too bad this time. John, Rymma and Helena did very well. And Olga ... well, this was her first time skating and let's just say that in the hunting world, she would be considered a "tree hugger." LOL She pretty much stayed up against the wall. But, hey! I would be doing the same thing!!

A "guard" kept asking me something and wouldn't you know it ... my PT was too cold to work. Hmph! I finally just told him, "Nyet Russki." (No Russian.) Thank goodness Olga came over and all he wanted was to see my ticket to skate. She told him I was not skating and he was fine after that. I have to say that it was very surreal trying to communicate with the guard and couldn't.

I took pics and video till my toes couldn't stand it any more-they were so cold, they stung. I went to the cafe and ordered a cappuccini (by myself! YEAH!) and defrosted while they finished up.

It was on to the pizza place! (Told you we'd probably go to both. :o) This pizza place was a more upscale Chuck E. Cheese with a Toys-R-Us type store you have to walk thru to get to it. (Can anyone say "marketing ploy?" LOL) This is the same place that Bob and Gail took Natasha. last year. We had 3 medium-sized, thin crust pizzas, 2 side salads, a dessert (tiramisu for me! YUM!), 6 bottled sodas and 4 bowls of ice cream for $154G-or around $40 USD. Not bad, huh? Can you imagine what that would cost at US CEC???

The kids played some games-duck tipping (practice for cow tipping when we get home! LOL), a Duck Hunt type game, DDR, skee ball, motorcycle video game and rode bumper cars. Rymma loved the motorcycle game. I just know she's going to be a Harley girl! LOL (She got big eyed last year when she saw John's dirt bike. She doesn't know we sold it for her and Julia's adoptions.)

The ride back to DCU to take Helena home was quite eventful. According to John (who could see out the right side of the car), our driver cut off another taxi (I think it's part of their behind-the-wheel exam when they get their license!!) and then that taxi cut us off and slammed his brakes. Not fun!! There was no accident-thank God. The next thing we know the drivers are outside the vehicles in each other's face. Our driver yelled something and the other driver walked away and left. Whew! Not something you would want to witness-especially with kids in the car. I am hoping that is what our driver told the other one before he took off.

We dropped off Helena-She is a great girl!! She definitely won my heart! NATASHA, Helena said to tell you, "Hello." Got a couple pics w Slavik's family & left to take the girls back before or on time. It was nice on the ride home. The girls snuggled w/us & we girls dozed off-a wonderful ending to a great day!!

We are now "home" & John is uploading the pics before heading to bed. John hasn't slept well the last couple of nights. :o( It doesn't help that there is construction going on in the flat next to us at all hours. Ugh!). Please pray for him to get some well-needed rest.

Friday, February 8, 2008

2-8-08 Pics of the day

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Day 15 - A Lot on Mamachia's Mind

I apologize in advance for the long post - I have a lot on my mind today as you will see toward the end..

I have to share this first - a couple of mornings ago, John looked out our bedroom window and said, "I wonder what the forecast is for today. Oh, look! It's 'drismal' again." I wonder if we could copyright it or whatever as a new meteorological term meaning "dreary and dismal." We have not seen sunshine since arriving in Gorlovka last Weds. :o(

************************
Today was a relaxing-and thought-provoking-day. It started out with a visit from Slavik to our flat. We have spoken to him on the phone and e-mailed but just met him today. He is a very nice man and we had a great visit with him and his friend, Alexander. We exchanged a gift for his daughter and gifts for his friends back home. ;o)

We arrived to see the girls after school and got to wish Anya a happy birthday-she turned 15 today. When we showed Rymma the cake we got her, she told Olga, "That is the exact cake I wanted." :o) Anya gave us a BIG smile and said, "Thank you," when we presented it to her. The girls had given her her gift earlier in the day-nail polish, mascara and a candle.

There were a couple boys playing table tennis in a back hallway and we ended up playing for a while. Julia has great hand-eye coordination. She did great! I think Rymma, Olga and I chased the ball more than we hit the doggone thing!
Even Helen played a couple rounds-she's the blonde in the pics.

Anya brought all of us some unshelled sunflower seeds. She about went nuts when she saw me eat the shell and all. "No!" She had Olga tell me I could get appendicitis from eating the shells. Don't know if it's an old wive's tale or true but I continued to eat them anyway. The rest of them only ate the nut inside!

We were able to give Helen her gift today. We told her it was a thank you for taking such good care of our daughters. She liked it very much and said she would use them for tea - green tea is very popular here.

We wanted to take Anya to dinner at the cafe to celebrate her birthday but Helen said no. :o( Not sure why. Not our place to ask. Anya was not a happy camper, let me tell you! We did bring her back some chips and chocolate.

We had a nice dinner. We all walked away with full bellies. The funny part of it is that Olga asked us if we wanted ice cream with fruit for dessert. We told her, "Let's wait until after we eat dinner" meaning "Let's see how full we are after we eat our dinner." The next thing John and I know there's a bowl of ice cream and fruit in front of each of us! Rymma and Olga had already had a bowl each so they couldn't help us out. Julia helped me a little with the fruit but John and I were stuck eating our two bowls. Olga was very apologetic for the misunderstanding. :o) They were very good but we were completely stuffed at the end. Needless to say, we have not eaten anything since dinner.

Tomorrow we will be going to Donetsk to visit Slavik and his family at DCU. The girls have a couple of places we can go-indoor ice skating or another Chuck E. Cheese style place. Not sure what they'll pick. Could be both if we have time. :o) Olga told us that the girls will probably get little sleep due to their excitement about tomorrow. Julia told her she wished it were tomorrow already when we took them back. We are excited about tomorrow too!

A few of Mamachia's thoughts:

1. It saddens John and me to know that Anya has basically one more year in the orphanage. We were very disappointed that we couldn't take her to dinner and make this one special for her. I really wanted to have party plates, balloons and cake and ice cream for her like we do at home but it wasn't to be. :o(

2. As I sit here, I am feeling more and more guilty for having enjoyed the ice cream at the cafe. It should have been Anya enjoying it-not me.

3. It hurts me to think that these kids have basically nowhere to go for fun around the orphanage but the sparse playground outside in good weather, the skating rink down the street if there is ice or the small pizza place in town-and both the rink and pizza shop are not places they visit often. Our kids at home have a plethora of places from which to choose and still can't decide or we get the "that's boring" line. They have no clue.

4. As the boys played table tennis, I wondered what other things they do to occupy their time besides study their lessons and then I think of all the toys that Timmy has and what these boys would do to be so lucky.

God has opened my eyes and my heart for these children more than I could have ever imagined and my heart weeps for those we will be leaving behind. I see the neighborhood around the orphanage and I want a life for them with loving families, with beautiful surroundings and more opportunities than they could possibly imagine. I want them to have birthday parties with all the hoopla and to wake up Christmas morning with twinkles in their eyes (not the expressionless eyes of the boys we saw today) and to know the love of a mother and father who love them beyond comprehension. I want them to know their Heavenly Father who watches over them and created them in His image.

For our short time here, we have vowed to our Father and to these wonderful children to love them as He does - to love on them unconditionally and let them know that they are very special to us. We want to be Heaven-bringers!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Court Date. FINALLY-"I have some good news and some not-so-good news..."

A stopped by our flat this evening to drop off some things. She told us that we FINALLY have our court date-the good news! The not-so-good news is it's NEXT Friday (2/15) at noon. That's 3 weeks after we left home.

She also told us that it is almost next to impossible to get the 10 days waived. Keep praying!!

Agape,
John & Lucia

ESL 101

"English as a Second Language 101"

God bless Olga!! As soon as we got to the orphanage, she asked for permission to use the playroom!! YES!!
Today we spent some time going over some English words-animals, fruits, vegetables, items in a room (ie, chair, lamp, table ...), actions (sit, play, jump, ...). When they said an animal's name, they had John make that animals sound. They loved his pig squeal and elephant call. Does anyone know the sound made by a giraffe?? LOL

The girls totally impressed us with their pronunciations. Julia even read very short poems. My only question is "does she know what she's reading or simply saying the words?" It seems to me and from watching them today that they know more than they let on. But, as anyone learning a foreign language knows, it will take some time, self-confidence and much studying to learn and feel comfortable enough to use it.

We also did a sort of flashcards. Olga had copied the pictures from the book and made cards of each picture. The girls then had to name the picture as they were able. Again, they did very well! Olga is going to get us a copy of the same book or a similar one for home.

After studying a while, they-meaning the girls AND Olga! LOL- got restless and decided to exert some pent up energy. So they played a game of indoor soccer with a stuffed soccer ball. Rymma set up goals on either side of the room and they went to town. It was Rymma and Olga vs. Julia and John. We found that Julia hates to lose and Rymma will cheat to win! LOL Rymma would carry the ball to J&J's goal and throw it in to get a point! At one pt, she threw the ball between her legs and got a point! Too funny! These girls are definitely competitive!

The girls have already distributed all their gifts but 3 - 2 for friends and one for a caretaker (it makes me happy that they care enough to gift their caretakers). They told us they distributed them together. Rymma also told us that Anya's birthday is tomorrow and they will give her her gift then and asked if we would get her a birthday cake. Of course! (We got one at the market on the way "home." It's beautifully decorated! Will get a pic tomorrow.)

We went to dinner at the cafe. We were going to take Ina and Anya with us but because they missed school today, they weren't permitted to go. (At home, it's the same-miss school; miss other outings :o) It's nice to see that same rule is applied at the orphanage.). I tried the chicken/mushroom/cheese dish that Julia usually gets and it was YUMMY!! The girls had crab salad and a cold veggie soup. Just about the time Julia was done with her soup, she mentioned that it possibly had vinegar in it. I tasted it and it had a little. Not too long after that, Julia excused herself and got sick. :o( I had noticed earlier that she was pale but she denied that she didn't feel well. -- You can see it in her eyes in the pics :o(

We took them back and said goodnight. We told Julia that we hope she feels better and told them that we would see them tomorrow. I wish we could have brought them home with us and cared for Julia at "home" but that wasn't possible. :o(